GRANDAD'S BOATS AND SAILBOAT RACING FOR HIS GRANDCHILDREN

MY FIRST BOAT:
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From age 5 through age 12 my family and I spent our summer vacations at our summer home at Greenhurst on Chautauqua Lake, New York, the western most finger lake just a few miles from Lake Erie and about a 1000 feet higher in elevation. My Grandfather Merz' summer home was next door, [M], our home was next [R], my cousins the Jones, [J], next door, and my cousins the Butterfields, [B], the next one. My grandfather's hobby was his nine grandchildren. The nine cousins used to put on a circus once every summer. A pony or two was brought in. All us kids dressed up in clown costumes. We had tumbling and juggling acts and even put silly costumes on our pet dogs. It was great fun for little kids and their neighborhood friends.


For my eighth birthday my grandfather gave me a brand new eight foot pram with a kayak paddle which has a paddle at both ends. I was in seventh heaven with my very own boat. My grandmother and mother insisted that I go out no farther in the lake than I could easily swim into shore, about 50 yards, and that I not use the boat on days when the lake was rough with whitecaps.

This tiny boat was my pride and joy. I paddled up and down the lakefront visiting friends and was the envy of the neighborhood kids. After about a month of sticking close to the shoreline, the wanderlust got to me. One day when my mother and grandmother were shopping in Buffalo and not expected back for a few hours, I packed up a sandwich and a cold bottle of root beer. We made our own root beer in those days and bottled and capped it in ginger ale bottles. I then took off in my little boat for Grass Island which was about a half mile out in the middle of the lake and had a picnic all by myself. Disaster struck! My mother and grandmother returned earlier than expected and found my boat and me missing. Luckily, I paddled home just as the rescue squad arrived. Unluckily, that was the end of my first boat.

My Grandfather Merz had a 30 foot Chris Craft cruiser which all of us grandchildren frequently cruised in with our parents running the boat. A typical Sunday cruise took us 20 miles up to the northwest end of Chautauqua Lake and back again with a picnic lunch served enroute. Summer vacations at Greenhurst on the lake were idyllic vacations for a five to twelve old youngster whose Grandfather provided docks for fishing for sunfish and bass, tree houses to play in and swings from the tall sycamore trees on the lakefront. We grandchildren all loved him dearly.

MY FIRST SAILBOAT:
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The summer of 1946 I was teaching a high school level 'Introduction to Aeronautics' course at the Chautauqua Institution's Summer School near the northwest end of Chautauqua Lake. My parents had purchased me a spanking new 16 foot Skaneateles Comet sailboat for me after I was discharged from the Air Force and returned to Princeton University. With an uncle's help, we uncrated the boat in my Grandfather's monster four story garage in Jamestown, New York, and trailered it to the Lakewood Yacht Club across the lake from my former summer home at Greenhurst. It was also across the lake from my nemesis, GRASS ISLAND. We popped the boat into the lake, set up the mast, boom and rigging and I sailed northwest up the lake to the Chautauqua Institution where I had a one bedroom apartment rented for the summer. It was a beautiful evening about 8:00 pm with a light easterly breeze moving me along nicely.


At 9:00 pm the easterly breeze quit cold dead and darkness fell when I had sailed about one mile up the lake from the Lakewood Yacht Club. I was up the creek without a paddle! My arrival at the Chautauqua Institution the next morning was about 10:00 am when the breeze picked up again. I slept for 14 hours that night and got up the next morning just in time to make my classes.

The Chautauqua Yacht Club had a mixed fleet of sailboats which raced every Saturday and Sunday. It consisted of about six Comets, twelve Lightnings, four C-scows and various and sundry sailboats in the handicap class. Each class started five minutes after the previous class had started with the Lightnings getting the first starting gun. Most all the skippers racing Comets were newcomers as I was. At the end of the two month racing series I placed third out of the six boats in the Comet fleet. More important than getting a third were the friendships I made with many others in the Yacht Club. Many of these close friendships have lasted well over fifty years as you will see later in this story.

The most significant event of the 1946 season at the Chautauqua Institution was my meeting your future grandmother. Every day I had breakfast of a quart of milk and cinnamon sweet rolls on the steps of the Colonnade Building where your future grandmother and I first met. We sailed together a few times in my little Comet sailboat. The tiller broke off on my sailboat one time, stranding us in the middle of the lake. This did not favorably impress her with sailboats. These were the first and last times I ever got her on a sailboat as she could not swim.

NEW YORK STATE C-SCOW CHAMPIONSHIPS:
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Gram and I were married the summer of 1949 and spent our honeymoon at my grandmother's summer home on Chautauqua Lake. It just so happened that the New York State C-Scow Championship Races were being held on Lake Skaneateles, one of the New York State finger lakes, about a six hour drive away. We trailed four C-scows from our yacht club to Skaneateles, plus your Grandmother and I in our Ford convertible carrying a cold keg of beer. We passed out cupfulls of beer to each car trailing a boat throughout the drive. I crewed with my friend Bryce Burroughs on his C-scow during these races and we won the New York State championship. I was hooked on C-scows for the rest of my sailboat racing career which lasted through 1995.

A sketch of a C-scow is illustrated below. It is a twenty foot planing sailboat with twin leeboards, (like centerboards), on each side. Depending upon which tack you are on and the wind velocity, one may lower each leeboard individually, anywhere from full down to only partially down for best speed. They carry 160 square feet of sail on a twenty six foot aluminum mast. Most racers have three sets of sails. Light weather up to 10 mph, medium weather wind velocity up to 15 mph, and heavy weather wind velocity 16 mph and up. With a 160 square feet of sail and a planing hull design these sailboats really fly often reaching 20 to 25 miles per hour on a reach, (crosswind). Going 20 miles per hour on a sailboat on the water is much like going supersonic in a US Air Force F-86D Sabrejet fighter aircraft.


A little thirteen foot outboard, plywood boat building kit, was purchased in 1956. After building it I decided to fiberglass it. Unfortunately a cold front came through right after I applied a couple of gallons of polyester resin. It took a month of infra red electric heaters to harden the resin. The next spring I put a 30 horsepower Evinrude outboard on it and I water skied on the Potomac River north of Great Falls with a neighbor driving it. After jumping its wake I veered too far to one side and the little boat, driver and all, flipped up in the air, did half of a barrel roll and landed upside down on the driver. He was not injured, but we had a hell of time getting the sunken boat and engine out of twelve feet of water.

In 1965 when we purchased and rebuilt our new summer home at Chautauqua Lake's Wahmeda subdivision, I bought an old Palmer 'wood' C-scow sailboat and a beautifully rebuilt Chris Craft inboard runabout to teach our young children how to water ski. It was an old 1939 model runabout, but the mahogany had been beautifully refinished. I taught all the children to water ski that summer, but the standout was my five year old daughter, Courtney, who used special tiny water skiis. She could jump the wake of the tow boat like an acrobat. She was a real tomboy who always aped what her older brothers did. At age five, she also could race her mother's 50cc Honda motorcycle around our grass motorcycle race course at home in Viriginia. An excellent graphic of our Chris Craft water ski towboat is shown below.



The old wood C-scow I acquired was made by the Palmer Boat Works about 1946. The leading C-scow sailboat skippers bought a new boat every year or two. After ten years of racing, C-scows were usually donated to YMCA or Boy Scout summer camps. This boat's wood was in perfect condition since the previous owner had fiberglassed it. The problem was that the glass and polyester resin added about 250 pounds to the boat's weight which was a no, no. The more weight you carry the slower you go in light or medium winds. A third man crew is NEVER carried except in heavy weather, (wind above 15 miles per hour). As a result of the extra weight on my old Palmer, I did very poorly in the overall two month summer racing series even with a new sail. So poorly that for the next fifteen years I crewed with my old friend and next door neighbor, Bryce Burroughs. I had crewed with Bryce in 1949 when we won the New York State C-scow championship. Bryce was a second generation C-scow sailor and a superior skipper. We won dozens of first and second place trophies for the skipper and crew during the 15 years that we raced together. Uusally, I would race the Labor Day series of four races as skipper on Bryce's C-scow and I won a number trophies in them. Below is a sketch of a C-scow racing in heavy winds.


DO C-SCOWS TIP OVER/CAPSIZE EASILY?
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You bet they do! With a very light boat, (about 500 pounds), and a monster sail, they will tip over in the blink of an eye when an unforeseen gust hits you. On capsizing the rules of the game are:

1. The crew lowers the upper leeboard and climbs out on it after throwing the upper back stay line over the side.
2. The skipper swims around the boat and climbs up and stands on the lower leeboard holding on to the back stay line.

The hollow aluminum mast will usually float for about five minutes. As soon as the wind swings the boat around so that the mast is downwind, assuming that the skipper and crew weigh at least 150 pounds, the boat will come up and right itself. Everybody jumps into the boat and continues racing. Experienced C-scow racers can often tip over and right the boat in two minutes or less. Here is a graphic of the skipper and crew standing out on the leeboards just before the boat pops up and rights itself after capsizing. Anyone who races C-scows in winds over 25 miles per hour is either drunk or a damn fool.


A NEW SAILBOAT RACING PARTNER
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In 1982 my boyhood friend, Dr. Bill Laird bought a new Melges C-scow. I bought a set of light weather and medium weather sails for the boat. We kept the boat at buoy in front of the dock in front of my home at Wahmeda on Chautauqua Lake. I had a little 12 foot aluminum rowboat with a five horsepower Evinrude outboard to go back and forth to and from the sailboat and/or tow it to and from regattas that were held further down the lake at the Lakewood Yacht Club. At first we raced the boat as co-captains, alternating each race as skipper. Later on, Bill was the full time skipper and I was the full time crew as he was a much better sailor than I was. We raced together through 1995 with the Chautauqua Yacht Club. Bill had been Commodore of the yacht club in 1950s and I was the Commodore of the yacht club in 1984 and 1985. By the mid-1980s our yacht club had become the one with the largest racing C-scow fleet in the world. We had 35 C-scows. Starting each race was much like a C-scow National Championship regatta there were so many boats. The graphic below illustrates all the boats in our C-scow fleet with sail numbers. Our sail number was C-125 which was our ages of 60 and 65 added together in 1986.


Bill Laird and I continued racing C-scows together through the 1995 U.S. C-scow National Championships which were hosted by our Chautauqua Yacht Club on Chautauqua Lake, New York. Our yacht club also hosted the 1992 U.S. C-scow National Championship races. In 1992 we finished about 50th out of 65 boats and in 1995 we finished about 60th out of nearly 90 boats. One memorable experience from the 1980s when Buddy Melges of Americas Cup Fame was visiting was Buddy patroling alongside our boat in a tune up race and shouting at us, "bow down, bow down" with a megaphone each time we tacked and came about. In 1995, Bill at age 74 and I at age 69 retired from C-scow racing. It truly is a young athlete's sport and not for old geezers.

MORE POWER BOATS I HAD:
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To shorten a long story I will just list and briefly comment them.

After we wore out the 1939 Chris Craft runabout I bought a new Evinrude 120 horse power, 17 foot inboard/outboard that continued as the family's water ski boat.

I traded the Envinrude in on a new Trojan 25 foot express cruiser. It had four berths, a bathroom with tiny shower, and a galley for preparing meals. It was the covered flying bridge model and was equipped with a 300 horsepower V-8 that would do about 25 miles an hour. I loved it, but ALL my family hated it. It had an autopilot for steering and auto throttles to maintain a constant speed. At that time I was on the Board of Directors of ITT Decca Marine so had a Decca Marine Radar on order. After two years I sold it to the Capo of the western New York mafia who insisted on paying cash. I stuffed about $12 thousand dollars cash in a coffee can which I hid in a neighbor's garage should he plan to send any of his honchos to retrieve it over the weekend. The Decca Radar did not arrive in time for installation. A fair sketch of the Trojan Cruiser is below.



At the 1971 boat show in New York City I found the toy I had always wanted. It was a twelve foot long surfboard with a 5 horsepower chainsaw engine driving a waterjet impellor. Who cared if the surf was UP. I cruised along Chautauqua Lake's lakefront about six miles an hour and turned it by shifting my weight while standing upright on it. Viewers from the beach thought they were seeing an apparition when the lake was calm as it had an excellent muffler.

During 1972 I obtained a little flat bottom rowboat from the local Girl Scout Camp, Twanakoda, that was closing down. My mother had attended it one summer about 1916. I trailed the little boat back to Virginia that autumn. Spent the winter season rebuilding it. Added reinforced frames, a new one inch mahogany marine plywood transom, new stringers, new decks, new steering, new outboard adaptor bracket, new Corvette gas cap filler, 2 seats & cushions and a tiny aluminum frame windshield. I then fiberglassed the whole thing and added adjustable trim tabs right beneath the transom. Next summer I trailed it back to our home at Chautauqua Lake and installed an 18 horsepower, electric start, Evinrude outboard engine. We called it 'Lucky Lindy' because it would really fly with one person in it. A rough sketch is below.



About 1974, I bought a seventeen foot, molded mahogany hull, miniature version of a tugboat. It had a covered wheelhouse, 3 port holes on each side of the cabin, and an 18 inch smokestack. 'Little Toot' was the cutest boat on the lake with a 12 volt air horn and an 18 horsepower, electric start Evinrude outboard driving it. One evening just after dark I took it up the lake to my favorite saloon and had a few bourbons and soda and chatted with friends. About midnight I returned home uneventfully. The next morning I found that at 10:00 pm the previous evening a tornado had crossed the lake right over the path I had taken and wiped out a trailer camp on the otherside of the lake. Someone was watching over me! When our children had grown up and moved away I donated the tugboat to the local Chautauqua Boys and Girls Club. The molded mahogany hull lasted another 10 years even though it was stored outdoors during our ferocious winter seasons.

The end.


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